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Susan Petty, 64, calls herself a “recovering Democrat.” Now she’s active in the Effingham County Republican Party.

She called the inquiry into whether President Donald Trump should be impeached “ludicrous.”

“I stand with my president,” she said.

In Effingham County, 78.2 percent of the vote went to Trump in 2016. But there are a few who say the probe announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday is justified.

David Seiler, a Democrat from Effingham, would like to see Republican leaders “disavow Trump’s actions and join the Democrats in calling for Trump’s resignation.”

Count Petty among those who say that will never happen.

“They keep digging and they can’t find anything on him,” Petty said. “The Democrats’ way of doing things is if you tell a lie often enough, they hope that people will start to believe. They are just grasping at low-hanging fruit.”

She suggested the investigation be pointed toward Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, as well as other Democrats. She voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to vote for him in 2020. She generalized that she believes in the Republican platform and she works daily for her party.

“The president is getting things done and improving things daily and they are just trying to distract him,” said Petty. “I think people are getting tired of the negativity.”

Petty believes Trump will be elected to a second term.

“I think the Democrats know that Trump’s electability is very high,” said Petty. “What have they got left except to throw mud? The writing is on the wall and they want to keep this in the news. They think if they keep this in the news, it will stick.”

Seiler, 54, is the vice chair of the Effingham Democratic Central Committee. He is also a history instructor at Lake Land College and a second-time candidate for Illinois State Representative for the 107th District.

Seiler said Trump’s actions regarding the Ukraine fit the pattern of his previous behaviors.

“He consistently tries to skirt what is thought to be acceptable,” said Seiler. “It appears to me that he often goes so far as to be breaking the law. Trump paid for the silence of his sexual affairs before the election. He welcomed help from Russia to get elected. He did all he could to obstruct the investigation into these actions.”

He added that Trump deflects by criticizing those who caught him doing something wrong.

“He is normalizing these behaviors and I think it clearly undermines our democracy,” said Seiler. “Trump’s abuse of power reminds me a lot of President Nixon’s actions in the lead up to Watergate. Things could develop quickly or they might drag out for the rest of President Trump’s term. There’s really no way to know for sure.”

Seiler said he’s glad to finally see Democratic leadership stepping up to hold Trump accountable.

“Whether it ends up with Trump’s removal from office is largely dependent on the Republican leadership,” said Seiler. “If the Republican leaders continue to help cover for President Trump, then he could end up surviving. But I think history will judge them poorly for doing so.”

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, provided a brief written statement regarding the inquiry.

“My colleagues’ continuing refusal to accept the results of the 2016 election is bad for our country,” wrote Shimkus. “I’ve read the Mueller report, and I will review the call transcript and whistleblower report, but I’ve yet to see evidence against the president that warrants impeachment.”

Effingham County Board Chairman Jim Niemann, a Republican, believes the impeachment inquiry is “all for appearances” because there is no crime that would lead to an impeachment trial.

“I believe this is all for appearances since it is fairly clear that absent is a clear and convincing criminal act that the trial in the Senate would never garner a supermajority required to remove an elected official,” Niemann said.

Niemann said it is too early to tell what the results of the inquiry will bring. He’s concerned Congress is trying to use the impeachment process as a political tool to negate past and future elections by voters.

Niemann said Pelosi’s actions have undoubtedly caused a stir in the political realm, and he is unsure if Pelosi is just trying to please the Democrats’ longtime call for impeachment.

“It may be Speaker Pelosi is seriously considering an actual pursuit of articles of impeachment, or she may be placating the portion of the Democratic base that want impeachment at all costs,” Niemann said.

Marilyn Wirth, 67, of Effingham, said the transcript of the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Voldoymyr Zelensky will once again exonerate Trump from any wrongdoing.

“I’m sure he felt that it vindicates him from all these attacks,” Wirth said. “The reaction I think is going to be typical. The Trump supporters will say ... it’s a big ‘nothing burger.’ The Trump detractors will find something in there that they will want to use that they feel comes to the high crimes and misdemeanor level that they have to reach.”

Wirth believes the only voters who may be swayed by the inquiry will be those who are “middle-of-the-ground Independents.” She said this will be the case because those on the ends of the political spectrum already have their political beliefs firmly planted when it comes to Trump’s presidency.

Echoing Trump’s own tweets, Wirth described the impeachment inquiry as another witch hunt in which Democrats are trying to find “what sticks” against Trump. She said she feels Democrats are searching for a crime to pin on the president.

When it comes to the phone call transcripts, Wirth likened the reading of the materials to Christians interpreting the Bible. She said everyone will take out of it whatever they want to and interpret it in various ways.

The impeachment inquiry itself likely won’t hurt Trump or his 2020 run, Wirth said.

“I think it may work in favor of the president and the Republicans,” Wirth said. “There are people talking about projection, which is the Democrats blaming Republicans for things that they are already guilty of and have not ever been prosecuted.”

Wirth said she felt Pelosi has been under pressure from her fellow Democrats to bring about an impeachment inquiry. She said she does not think the Democrats know what they’re doing when it comes to the impeachment process, and should Trump be impeached, they will be left with Vice President Mike Pence, who they do not like, either.

Harold Hampton, 81, of Heartville, is a Democrat. He didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 and said that he definitely will not be voting for him in 2020, even though he’s a little disappointed in what he’s seen from the Democratic candidates so far.

He believes the impeachment inquiry is worthwhile, but thinks its proponents are spinning their wheels because the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate will never vote to oust Trump from office.

Hampton said the Republicans don’t have a backbone and he’s never seen someone control people like Trump does.

Mary Jo Kessler, 82, of Altamont, is a Republican. She voted for Trump and plans to vote for him again next year.

“I believe that they are having a hard time finding something to get him out of office,” she said. “If they had something, why aren’t they putting it out there instead of trying to dig for something else?”

Daily News reporter Crystal Reed contributed to this report. Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext 138.

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Dawn Schabbing is a senior reporter at the Effingham Daily News, covering Effingham City Hall, Unit 40, and special projects. A graduate of Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University with degrees in journalism, she lives in Neoga.


Kaitlin Cordes covers Effingham County, police and courts and sports features for the Effingham Daily News. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University. Cordes is a native of Effingham.


Crystal Reed is a reporter for the Effingham Daily News, covering towns in the eastern coverage area. She is a graduate of Richland Community College and Eastern Illinois University with degrees in journalism. She is originally from Decatur.